California governor lifts drought emergency in most counties

The governor's executive order maintains the drought emergency for sites still desperate for deliveries of drinking water, including Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Tuolumne counties. For their part, farmers said they received far less water than promised by state and federal authorities.

The district had declared its drought over last month, and it's among several water districts concerned that the state's new water plan is still too tough.

"That could mean helping them find low-interest loans to deepen their well, drill a new one, or connect to a public utility if it's available", he said.

Funding was made possible through Brown's original executive order related to the drought that was issued in January 2014.

Experts said the naturally occurring cyanobacterium blossomed because nutrients that built up during the drought were washed off hills when rains finally arrived. Thanks to the drought, the state has surpassed that benchmark, which was set at 159 gallons per person a day.

The cost for purchasing and installing all the tanks and pumps to serve the homes totaled over $523,711, according to Billigmeier. The fact is, tens of millions of people who live in the state should never have been there in the first place.

In practical terms, the lifting of the drought order will have little effect on most Californians.

"We not only had enough supplies to meet demands during the height of the drought, but we are in a stronger position today to ensure regional water supply reliability than we were at the start of the drought", said Muir.

Although details haven't been worked out, the new rules will avoid "tough time emergency" cutbacks in favor of "reasonable targets", Marcus said.

"They can't be trenching and laying in pipe while it's raining", Westbrook said.

The 65.9 inches of total precipitation since October 1 is about an inch or two shy of the historical record for this time of year that was set during 1982-83 season, the wettest ever recorded with 77.4 inches between October 1, 1982, and September 30, 1983. San Luis Reservoir in Merced County, which was so empty last summer that algae blooms showed up in Silicon Valley's water supply, is 98 percent full.

Water conservation will become a way of life in the state, said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board.

Even as state officials unveiled a plan to continue water conservation in the years ahead, a number of prohibitions against wasteful water practices - like hosing off a sidewalk will remain. At the peak of the drought, the state urged Californians to slash their water use, and led by example by letting the Capitol lawn die. "That is something the state is going to be pushing".

The new order means different things to 36 million Californians, many who have been saving on average more than 20 percent since 2013, and the 410 urban water agencies under restrictive conservation targets and, as of previous year, stress-test reporting.

  • Zachary Reyes